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Ashby Hall's Sunny Outlook in Clarence Valley

Volunteer board members at Ashby Hall are looking forward to the sun shining and easing restrictions at their reserve in the Clarence Valley, Northern NSW.

23 September, 2021

Volunteer board members at Ashby Hall are looking forward to the sun shining and easing restrictions at their reserve in the Clarence Valley, Northern NSW.

For land manager Peter Mather, a 10-year dream of installing solar panels on the roof of the hall recently became a reality when co-managers Barbara Winters and George Kriflik joined the hall’s community board. “We all came together to make sure this solar project saw the light of day. George sourced the quotes and Barbara applied to a few different grant programs”, said Peter.

The land manager was successful in obtaining a grant for a solar energy system through the Foundation for Rural Regional Renewal – a not-for-profit organisation supporting investment in rural and regional communities across Australia.

After the board voted unanimously in favour of the project, George, who is an engineer with experience in asset management, selected a local supplier and took charge of the installation. Barbara, Deputy Chairperson of the board was pleased with how quickly the project was completed and the expected benefits the solar system will provide.

“With the whole system being up and running just two months later, the project has certainly been a success. Ashby Hall can now operate more sustainably with reduced running costs. This helps to reduce the strain on our finances given the impact of COVID-19 restrictions”, said Barbara.

Barbara’s skills working as a TV reporter in a previous role were put to good use as she captured the community’s overwhelmingly positive response to the solar project in a YouTube video.

Other projects at Ashby Hall

Ashby Hall Reserve came under new management during the pandemic last year, when community gatherings were hampered by Public Health Orders and no income from the monthly community markets was being generated.

While it has been a challenging time, the recruitment of new board members has helped to bring renewed energy and activity at the hall. Several COVID-safe community working bees were held, and local contractors have been engaged to fix and clean the facilities, repaint signs, and get the markets up-and-running again.

Working bees with local Yaegl bush regenerators have given community volunteers the opportunity to learn about weeds and native species and enjoy a cultural exchange and social contact during the pandemic. A mix of activities at the hall have helped to engage and educate the wider community on the reserve. These include nature conservation walk and talks, art classes and workshops.

Thanks to these great programs, an increasing number of community members are getting involved with the reserve by joining working bees and organising workshops. These activities receive funding support from Clarence Valley Council as well as Healthy North Coast’s Bushfire Recovery Program.

Further funding will improve access to the reserve, with the creation of the Ashby Nature Discovery trail. The trail will feature some basic and creative trail infrastructure, flora and fauna signage and the development of an audio-guided trail walk. The Ashby Hall Markets have also been a success, attracting new stallholders, live musicians and offering a completely new take-away menu during the pandemic.

The team is now busy preparing a COVID-safe plan to re-open when permitted.

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